In Conversation With Prakhar Rastogi

Alumni Interview

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He is the Gold Medallist of B.Tech Class of 2014, a Microsoft intern and was handpicked by Arista Networks during his campus placements. A man of sheer determination, Prakhar Rastogi, today is an inspiration for many of us. BufferedReader has always been instrumental in accentuating the experiences and achievements of the alumni of the department, to help enable the students to learn from them. On similar lines, our BufferedWriter, Ashay Sinha, met Prakhar in Bangalore. An excerpt from the conversation.

Ashay: So Sir, tell us how has your life since ISM been?

Prakhar: To sum it all, I miss my college days. In college connecting with your friends was really easy considering the fact that they would normally be living in the room next to yours. But as you progress into your professional life, meeting up is not as easy as it was then. People have their own professional commitments due to which meeting up becomes a pretty difficult task. I feel that it’s very difficult to organise meets after passing out from college as normally everyone has their own commitments be it professional or personal.


Ashay: What do you think is the best advantage of working for a company like Arista Networks, which as of now has a limited number of employees?

Prakhar: According to me the best part of working in such a company is that it gives us a really good platform to interact with other fellow employees, and to really get to know one another. The problem with corporate culture, which exists in other firms, is that it deprives us of a chance to really get to know our colleagues.


Ashay: And a disadvantage of working in such a company would be?

Prakhar: I really believe that there really isn’t any disadvantage in working for a company where there are a limited number of employees. There exists a general perception that in case of smaller companies, there is an increased work load, due to the limited amount of resources the company has at hand. However I think this is a misconception. Though the employees have to work really hard, this experience helps to teach you how to really handle work. If life was easy, you’d always want it to be easy. Consequently, you won’t learn anything and you won’t eventually grow as a person.


Ashay: Arista Networks is a domain specific company. Your work mostly revolves around the repeated use of network structures. What are your views on this? Do you ever get bored as your work revolves around a single topic?

Prakhar: I believe that this would not be a problem if you’re really passionate about networking. Personally I feel that networking is a really interesting field with a lot of depth. This company is relatively new so here you get a chance to decide the protocols and take major decisions. However if you were working in a larger company your contribution would be restricted to, let’s say, implementing just one command. So working at Arista has been a really good learning experience so far. And I feel that if you’re really passionate about what you are doing, there is absolutely no way you would ever get bored. If you’re really passionate, then doing the same thing for one day or even one year shouldn’t be a problem.


Ashay: As an alumnus do you feel that the education imparted to you over the last four years really helped? And do you believe there is anything lacking?

Prakhar: Well I believe that the only thing that is a problem in the existing system is the lack of practical exposure. Normally we cram up topics only for the sake of doing well in our exams. This attitude should change. We should really make an effort to understand rather than just cram. Students should take up more projects. I believe that students too will also have to make an effort to better themselves. It’s nice to hear that seniors are now conducting workshops to help the juniors hone their skills. This step will surely help the students do well in future. During my time in college we really didn’t have a platform like this, so I would suggest that the juniors should really make use of these opportunities.


Ashay: It’s pretty common for Indian IT employees to lose interest in their work and pursue other avenues like an MBA, IAS, etc. What are your views on the subject?

Prakhar: After coming into the industry people themselves introspect on whether or not they want to continue with their current career path. The IT industry is such where you can only work to your fullest potential if you’re truly passionate about computer science. These days it has become a common trend to pursue this course as people normally see the pay packages that this industry offers. However if you are truly not devoted to this field you will face problems in the future.


Ashay: Do you really have to be good at coding to enter the IT Industry?

Prakhar: Being good at coding is a vital skill to possess. However I do not believe it is the only skill that will help you succeed. What you really need to do well in this industry is a passion for computers. Coding skills can be honed and developed with time.


Ashay: Are the programming languages that you learned in college being used in your professional life?

Prakhar: Well I believe that learning algorithms and the logic behind simple operations is more important than knowing different languages. Though the syntax may change from language to language but the primary logic behind most operations remains the same. Hence, logic I believe, is the most important aspect of programming.


Ashay: So to seek a career in networking do you need to have pre-existing knowledge about the subject?

Prakhar: Well I personally believe that the topic of networking is not covered in depth at the college level. When I was recruited by Arista, even during the interview I wasn’t asked questions from networking though the job profile for that particular role was pertaining to networking. After joining Arista there were a series of workshops and boot-camps that taught us all that pertained to our job.


Ashay: Can you tell us something that you wish you would have done better when you were in college?

Prakhar: I wish I had coded more. That is one area I feel I could have done better. I would advise all the juniors to stick to the college curriculum and be thorough with the knowledge imparted and be clear conceptually. This is vital.


Ashay: Can you tell you about your internship at Microsoft?

Prakhar: Well that is a very good question. I think I got really lucky when I managed to land this internship. I was actually at home for a week when I got a call, on the 16th of August, telling me that Microsoft was coming to recruit students for an internship on the 28th of August. Well, on hearing this I rushed back to college by the 21st of August and I spent the next 7 days on GeeksforGeeks, trying to learn up as much as I could. Thankfully, despite my lack of preparation I managed to get the internship opportunity, but sadly I was unable to get a PPO. However I really enjoyed my time there. The working environment and the culture was excellent.


Ashay: How would you compare the experience of working at Microsoft while interning to that of working as a full time hire at Arista now?

Prakhar: Well in Microsoft you are provided with a lot of facilities like a large cafeteria, a gym, etc. that are currently not provided by Arista. However while working at Arista, I got the opportunity to learn the basics of Linux and various other skills that I would not have had the chance to develop had I worked in a well-established company such as Microsoft. This is because in large companies you have a separate group of engineers to deal with the different types of problems you will face. However in case of smaller companies, most of the employees have to sort out the basic issues that may arise when working, and hence this helps to build upon your knowledge of various topics. This is one of my favourite parts about working for a company like Arista. In Arista you are not forced to work in teams, and you can often tackle issues on your own. To encourage this culture, Arista has introduced a system of peer-bonuses that help motivate the employees to tackle major issues on their own.


Ashay: What do you think is one of the “must do’s” at ISM?

Prakhar: Well I think it is simple. Just enjoy these four years while they last.


Ashay: What do you think you as an Alumnus can do to help the college now?

Prakhar:Well as alumni I believe it is our duty to help our juniors by imparting knowledge and by providing financial support. At the rate the department is improving, I envision a really good future!